Demilitarize the Police
Re “How to Make ‘Defund the Police’ a Reality” [Bryce Covert, July 13/20]: We of course need to change American policing in light of its bloody, racist history, but we cannot stop there and must get to its centuries-old roots in empire. Let’s make it “demilitarize the police.” That opens the focus to include America’s deeper need: Defund the military and the CIA, our international “police” spending in the trillions, which benefits only the global war and weapons industry.
Audit the Pentagon. Cut the budgets for the Defense Department, the National Security Agency, the CIA, and other military-rooted unaccountable agencies that provide corporate welfare to the weapons cartels.
Opening that vault would mean we could expand and improve social services such as mental health and free or low-cost pre-K and college education and provide universal basic health care. There would be funds to improve our roads, bridges, renewable energy investments, and public services to benefit all Americans.
Imagine being able to replace America’s empty rhetoric of human rights with measurable change that demonstrates visible commitment to those values.
The Case for Public Banks
Destin Jenkins makes a vital proposal in “Just Investment” [July 13/20] that we need “to leverage completely new financial mechanisms” for investment in our cities’ infrastructure. But he overlooks the most effective tool at hand. Many cities—like San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Seattle—have taken steps toward establishing public banks, which are designed to lend for infrastructure at favorable rates. Cities and states need to borrow this model, which is successfully and widely used for infrastructure in Europe and Asia.
Jenkins makes the case well that the traditional use of bonds to borrow from Wall Street will only sink cities ever deeper into a debt trap. A bank founded by a city with its own long-range vision can help finance schools, road and rail, and affordable housing while building its capital base and keeping its money at home. It is a stable formula. Look to the example of the public Bank of North Dakota, which has built its capital over 100 years by prudently lending for its state’s development. Amazingly, it is the only public bank in use in the United States.
Board Member, Public Banking Institute
Re “Circus Maximus” by Patricia J. Williams, July 13/20: The analogy of Donald Trump as a pro-wrestling entertainer goes even further. World Wrestling Entertainment scripts rivalries between the performers, and fans follow them avidly, despite on some level knowing that they are fiction. So, too, does Trump play out his staged conflicts with TV personalities, journalists, and Democratic politicians.
A Perverse Legacy
Re “Goodbye, Columbus?” by Katha Pollitt [July 13/20]: Let us not be confused about or sympathetic to the defense of Confederate memorials as the preservation of Southern heritage. That heritage is one that brought carnage and suffering to this nation and remains an affront to Americans whose ancestors were enslaved. Their argument is an equivocation of true intent, and within it lies a racism that Americans must confront and reject. Ours is not to judge the souls of Robert E. Lee, J.E.B. Stuart, and Jefferson Davis; that lies with their creator. But we have a profound responsibility to deny them tribute they do not deserve.
rolling hills estates, calif.
Katha Pollitt in “Goodbye, Columbus?” rightfully highlights our perverse legacy of celebrating prominent offenders of democratic values. However, she doesn’t mention what arguably would be the most forcefully defended symbol of all: the District of Columbia.
But she deserves kudos for noting that “George Floyd didn’t die because Minneapolis lacked the right monuments”—emphasizing the intense, long-term centrality of the justice work ahead.
Spinning Their Wheels
Elie Mystal’s skepticism in “The Outrage Must Not End” [June 29/July 6] is well placed. We will see this police brutality again and again. In 1967 and ‘68, when I was a young social worker in Detroit, the city exploded with police brutality, aided by the Michigan National Guard and Army troops. The official count, I believe, was 34 people shot dead. My liberal friends said, “This shall not happen again.”
Reforming the police is not a solution to the problem. Reformers are spinning their wheels. Radical change is needed in our institutions. Let us be honest about this: The function of police is to effect the will of the government, not to protect the public from harm. That ubiquitous slogan “To protect and to serve” could not be more cynically misleading.
“A Driving Force” by Ed Morales in the July 13/20 issue misstated Reies López Tijerina’s name. It also incorrectly stated that Tijerina was a Nevada land rights activist and the leader of La Raza Unida. Tijerina focused on land rights in New Mexico and participated in La Raza Unida events but was not an official leader of the party.
“Coming Forward” by Stephen Kearse [July 27/August 3] stated that On the Record went through multiple cuts as a result of Oprah Winfrey’s concerns regarding the filmmakers’ knowledge of hip-hop and Black history. Winfrey was uncertain whether the film “captured the nuances of hip-hop culture and the struggles of black women,” according to The New York Times, but it is not clear whether the film went through multiple cuts as a result.